Aidan writes a painful letter
Sixteen-year-old boys are horrible, as we noticed in play and I noticed again while writing this. At least he’s made up his mind about it.
Alysei Aidan astin Velain to Hyltei Radan astin Brun, sheriff of Turenay
This is very hard for me to write, and I’d much rather come back to Turenay to tell you in person what I’m about to do, but if I did I couldn’t do it. Because both of your sons are going off to the war.
I know that I promised Cora that I’d stay with her and not go off, but it occurred to her that this would likely be the last big and important battle in the whole world, or at least the part of it that we know, in our lifetime, and if I couldn’t be there I’d be explaining for the rest of my life why I wasn’t. And she must have seen how bracing the sight of the army was for me. Athal lent me one of his uniforms –it fit!– and he and Uncle Ferin took me to inspect the troops, and I joined in some of the sword training. Athal is going to give me a sword from the armoury that’s long enough for the extra reach I’ve grown lately, because he saw how much trouble I was having with the one I’ve had since I was twelve or so.
So I came back kind of exultant and tried to keep it from Cora but you know as well as I do that it’s impossible to keep anything from Cora. We took Athal and Raisse out for dinner and dancing –it’s amazing how people can pointedly not notice that the king and queen are eating at the next table– and at the Mill Gate dance hall Cora took me outside and demanded that I make up my mind, and said she’d release me from my promise if I really wanted to go and fight.
It took me all the rest of the evening and half of the night to come to a decision, torn between letting Athal down and letting Cora down. But yes, I do really want to go and fight. Perhaps it’s only for the glory, or to save myself embarrassment forever more, or to hold Athal’s hand when he’s in distress at sea (come to think of it I’ve never been at sea myself, what if I’m the same way? But then I’m not a grand master); I don’t know. Certainly it’s not because I think I’m indispensable: I saw dozens of fighters better than I am, and they have so many sergeants that they don’t really need one aged not quite seventeen from the provinces. This is something I want to do, not something anybody else wants me to do. Athal says he’ll be glad to have me but doesn’t require it of me, but he does understand.
So I’m off to Essle in a week and a half. Cora will come back to Turenay, I suppose after visiting her friends to the north. She’s determined to go home pregnant. I can’t very well deny her that– she knows her own body well enough to know that she can pull it off, both to start it and to finish it. And if everything goes as well as we expect, I’ll be home in time to see my son or daughter born. I do realise that it’s likely that I’ll be wounded, and possible that I’ll be killed, but I could fall down a flight of stairs or be trampled by a horse in Turenay, and I don’t expect Naigha to take me before she wants me.
Could you please tell people– the school, and Master Jilan, and Jichan, though I wouldn’t be surprised to meet Jilan and half the new regiment in Essle, and perhaps Jichan and some more people from the school too. I’m not all that confident I can write everybody their own letter and find the right words every time.
In Valdis, on the Feast of Mizran,